Here are three things you need to know in the financial markets this morning from investment writer, Tony Cross.
#1. Big jump in Sainsbury dividends despite cost of living crisis
Full year numbers from J Sainsbury [LON:SBRY] for the 52 weeks to 5th March are out this morning with the company noting retail sales including fuel are up 3.4% but strip this out and the headline number is down by 2.6%, Grocery sales are up from pre-pandemic levels and flat year on year, but general merchandise is struggling owing to product availability issues. Underlying profits are significantly higher too, as a result of COVID costs having been removed from the business, but this is likely to catch the eye of the popular press given the cost of living squeeze – especially in light of the proposed 24% increase in total dividend payments for the year.
#2. Unilever: Price rises eroding volumes
Q1 numbers from Unilever [LON:ULVR] in a trading statement this morning, showing a 7.3% uptick in underlying sales, 8.3% of that coming from price whilst there was a 1% fall in volumes, reflecting rising input costs. Underlying sales growth for the full year is forecast to come. In between 4.5% and 6.5% whilst operating margins should remain in the previously guided range of 16-17%, although cost pressures will likely mean this number is at the lower end.
#3. Accommodation sales at Whitbread beat pre-COVID levels
Premier Inn operator Whitbread [LON:WTB] has published preliminary results for the year to 3rd March this morning. These numbers are skewed by the impact of lockdown during the early part of the reporting year but the company notes that in H2, accommodation sales were 12.5% ahead of pre-COVID levels. F&B sales were down more than 30% on the year, but only 7.9% lower in H2. The company cautions that it now expects input inflation for the current FY to be in the region of 8-9% but that it will offset this with pricing power, efficiency gains and estate growth.